Apprenticeships in Scotland

Rachel Swain, Editorial manager
January, 2021

Discover how Scotland's apprenticeships can provide the work-based learning experience you need to develop the skills and confidence to forge a successful career

Apprenticeships provide young people with the opportunity to study towards a nationally recognised qualification while gaining hands-on experience of the industry through on-the-job training.

In Scotland, there are three types of apprenticeship:

  • Foundation - targeting secondary school pupils to equip them with workplace experience while completing their National 5s and Highers.
  • Modern - aimed at people aged 16 and over
  • Graduate - allowing apprentices to take their studies up to Masters level.

See the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) for an idea of how Scottish apprenticeship qualifications compare with other Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs).

Foundation apprenticeships

Aimed at those still at school you'll study for an Foundation apprenticeship (FA) alongside your National 5s and Highers (equivalent to GCSEs and AS-levels), meaning you leave school with a well-rounded and valuable skillset. Taken over two years, typically beginning in S5, pupils take time out from the classroom to gain workplace experience and make progress towards an SCQF-recognised qualification.

FAs are offered in 12 subjects, including:

  • accountancy
  • business skills
  • civil engineering
  • creative and digital media
  • engineering
  • financial services
  • food and drink technologies
  • hardware and system support
  • scientific technologies
  • social services, children and young people
  • social services and healthcare
  • software development.

Some of Scotland's largest employers offer FAs, such as Network Rail and the NHS.

On completion of an FA, students are well-placed to advance to the next stage of their career - whether that's enrolling on an MA, heading straight into the world of work or applying for further education. Several Scottish universities, including Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Glasgow, currently accept FAs as an entry requirement onto some courses.

Modern apprenticeships

With 92% of candidates remaining in work six months after becoming qualified, and as many as 37,000 young people already on the pathway, it's clear to see that Modern apprenticeships (MAs) have had an overwhelmingly positive impact on Scotland's workforce.

These apprenticeships are a viable alternative to university, providing the option for candidates to gain hands-on experience while earning a wage and studying towards an industry-relevant qualification. 96% of Scottish employers say those with a modern apprenticeship are more able to do their job.

There are more than 100 MAs available across a range of sectors:

  • accounting
  • business administration
  • construction
  • finance
  • healthcare
  • IT
  • retail.

You're eligible to start an MA once you've reached the Scottish statutory minimum school leaving age, which for the majority is 16. The specific qualifications you'll need will vary depending on your employer and apprenticeship, although most will ask for three or more National 4s (or Standard Grades at general level, if you obtained your qualifications before the switch in 2014). If you have further qualifications or skills in a specialist field, you may be able to begin at a higher level.

On an MA, you'll be paid for the work you're doing towards becoming qualified. MA candidates can expect to receive the apprentice wage, which as of April 2020 is:

  • If you're under 19, and/or in the first year of your MA, you're entitled to £4.15 per hour.
  • As you advance into second year, you'll receive £6.45 per hour if you're aged 18-20, £8.20 per hour if you fall into the 21-24 age bracket or the National Living Wage of £8.72 if you're 25 and over.

Visit My World of Work to discover the range of MAs currently available, and begin your search at Skills Development Scotland (SDS).

Graduate apprenticeships

Graduate apprenticeships (GAs) are the more advanced branch of the Scottish apprenticeship family, offering work-based learning and study up to Masters level.

Employers and higher education institutions collaborate to shape GAs around the needs of the industry. Because of this, you can be sure that everything you'll learn and practice while becoming qualified is directly relevant to boosting your career prospects.

There are 13 universities offering GAs including Queen Margaret University and The University of Edinburgh in areas including IT, digital, civil engineering and engineering.

As a GA candidate, you'll be considered an employee of the company you're working for, spending on average one day a week at university or college. You won't be eligible for government funding from the Students Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS), but your course fees will be paid by your employer and you'll receive a monthly wage in line with the national apprentice wage (see above).

To be eligible you'll need to prove that:

  • you're a resident of Scotland
  • the premises you work in is located in Scotland
  • you have the right to live and work in Scotland
  • you're over the age of 16, although some workplaces may impose a minimum age of 18 due to health and safety regulations.

There is no upper age limit for enrolling on a GA You'll still be eligible if you already have a degree, or if you're already in employment - talk to your employer about the opportunities available to you.

Find the latest GLA vacancies.

Find out more

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